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The New Black Fest: Where Art Meets Action

Equity in the Arts
Lenelle Moise, Jocelyn Bioh, Eric Micha Holmes, NSangou Njikam, Lisa Rosetta Strum

The plays of The New Black Fest at The Lark 2016 provide a vital lens through which to view society, fixed unapologetically on tough issues of race, gender, politics, sexuality, and other pivotal parts of the human experience. It becomes increasingly clear with every new socially conscious hashtag and every bit of backlash against demonstrations of activism, that audiences in the United States require greater exposure to the experiences and stories of people of color.  From Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown, TNBF has reflected upon the most pressing incidences of our times, and then shared those reflections of our society through the power of plays. Theater has the transformative ability to shape minds and stir emotional responses that may not have been felt without the opportunity of experiencing a live show. The plays of this year’s The New Black Fest at The Lark are unique in perspective and style, but they all possess the power to transport you.

But, what about after the show is over? What more can be done to be a part of bringing equity to the world? Paying attention is the first step.  There are theater companies throughout the nation taking concepts learned from the plays they present, and translating them into action. Learning from these practices, adapting and adopting them for our everyday lives, can go a long way towards a more inclusive society.
That’s exactly what we did at The Lark, by learning from the models being put in place by Theater Communications Group and the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Institute (EDI). This program is designed to "transform the national theatre field into a more equitable, inclusive and diverse community." The Institute consists of 20 theaters which support each other in creating action plans around these issues. Recently, TCG announced an expansion of the program, made possible in part by the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Equity, Access, and Inclusion (EAI), are also core values at The Lark. Through many activities, we strive to promote thoughtful discussion surrounding challenging issues, including monthly staff conversations on a topic pertaining to our EAI efforts. Conversations on sensitive topics can be hard, but as with anything, they get easier with practice; practicing deep listening, the use of respectful language, and the ability to check yourself will play an integral role in creating thoughtful communities.

Another organization to keep an eye on is artEquity, whose founder and director Carmen Morgan helped launch the TCG EDI Institute. The goal of artEquity is "to create a diverse, well-equipped cadre of national facilitators who can support equity-based initiatives nation-wide." artEquity provides training to a cohort of artists and art administrators from across the U.S. so leaders in the field will be equipped to effectively move forward the efforts of EDI work. The 2015 cohort included The Lark’s own Anna Kull and Michael Robertson was one of the facilitators

Of course, these organizations are only three of many who are doing their part to create more widespread opportunity in the field. If you're interested in learning more, consider following the Twitter accounts of The LarkTCG, and artEquity. Remember, the first step to educating yourself about the issues is becoming part of the conversation.

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